Running season

So this fall I picked up a new hobby and started running. I thought it would be a great excuse to get myself outside during the winter and make winter suck a little bit less. Also exercise is good and shame on me for waiting 25 years to start. I did Couch to 5k which I would certainly recommend to anyone wanting to get into running. It’s a program that starts out alternating between walking and running, increasing the amount of time spent running each session. In about 2 months I went from being unable to run for more than a minute or two to being able to run a 5k. I kept running all winter when the weather permitted and can now run pretty close to 10k.

When I got started I went thrift store shopping and bought every manner of cold weather athletic wear I could find. I soon realized that even when it’s freezing, I wouldn’t need the down jacket to keep me warm but put the sweats to good use.

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Now that spring is getting close I’ve decided to do something I never thought I’d want to do. Later this March I’m running in a 5k. It’s a big step for me. The last time I ran with a group of people for the sake of competition was in high school when we had to run the mile once a semester. Back then I spent most days hiding in the bleachers trying to read during PE and barely cleared a 16 minute mile. I still run slow, but I enjoy it now. My average 5k speed is about 36 minutes. Since I hadn’t been able to run much last month due to weather, I’m setting a realistic 5k goal of running the entire time without stopping. I mailed off the application today and went thrift store shopping again, this time to find everything I’d need to run in the spring and summer. Not only did I find everything I wanted for running (armband, shorts, capris, tank top and massage ball), I lucked out and found they had new bike tubes for super cheap. I stocked up and bought several of the size my bike tires take. Bring it on warm weather!

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New Years Goals

2014 was my first entire year out of school and I spent most of it reflecting and setting goals.  It’s been a strange transition, but I feel like I have a better idea now what I want for the future.  I’ve set up a few challenges for the New Year:

  • Take down the Christmas tree
  • Run 10 miles a week consistently
  • Read 52 books in 2015
  • Spend less time on the computer
  • Stop compulsively looking at the phone during downtime
  • Apply to at least one art show a month
  • Set aside a dedicated day of the week for making art
  • Sketch everyday
  • Take more risks
  • Worry less
  • Spend more time outside
  • Grow business further
  • Get rid of more things
  • Build (or at least seriously plan/start) a tiny house
  • Find a nice place to put said house
  • Buy some Christmas decorations next year

As a compulsive list maker I find it really rewarding to set goals so I can come back and cross a few off later.  I’ve always thought New Years was a good opportunity for self evaluation and goal setting.

Gearing up for Christmas

So Thanksgiving is over and I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas.  This is the first year since I was 5 that I’m not either in school or teaching/travelling.  It’s the first year I’ll actually have time to do some of the things I’ve always talked about doing for Christmas like decorating my house and getting a real tree.  Only time will tell if I actually get around to these things, as there’s much more I have on my holiday to do list.IMG_1763

I visited the local wood shop last week for the first time, other than sourcing wood for school projects. I did a little research on different types of wood after I decided I’d make a small wooden gift for everyone in my small family.  I’ve done woodworking before, but nothing too far outside of the pine and plywood category.  As easily as I could’ve spent $100+ there I managed to leave with 30 dollars worth of birdseye maple, walnut and padauk. As much as I’d love to share some of the models I’ve drawn up and in process shots of what I’m working on, I don’t want to ruin the surprise for the 3 readers who will be unwrapping them for Christmas.  I’ll be sure to make an update post after the holidays are over!

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Over the last week or two I’ve been readying my Ebay store for holiday shopping.  Since I’ve been spending this year trying to save money and develop a business that will allow (and finance) me to make art, I’ve been trying to find ways to make more money.  In preparation for Christmas, I’ve been working about twice as much, and plan to keep the pace up next year if my profits reflect the extra work.  A friend of mine gave me a box full of vintage Christmas ornaments to sell on commission, so I spent all of last week listing as many of them as I could before Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

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While listing these I ran across a handful of vintage Putz houses. I never knew what Putz houses were before but now I’m totally into them.  According to an article on Retro Renovation “These glittery little holiday houses date to 1928 — invented by the Japanese, likely building on the concept of the similarly small “candy box” houses that they had been making for the American market. Their “golden years were from 1928 through 1937, when the looming war discouraged consumption.”  After reading a bit about the houses, my mom and I spent a night last week watching TV and building our own.  I’ve never been much for holiday decor, as I have a theory that it lives in closets and slowly reproduces (the amount of estate auctions I’ve been too with closets full of tinsel, bows and wreaths confirms this). Still, I love the idea of making anything I can to decorate. I wanted my Putz houses to be something I could hang onto for a long time and that would remind me of where I am now. I made one of the tiny little house I rent now and another of the big pretty Tudor revival I grew up in.  I included every detail (down the the derelict kayak in our yard) but somehow forgot to include chimneys. I made them from leftover mat board, cellophane for windows and as much glitter and fake snow as I could glue on.  They don’t look like much now, sitting on my coffee table, but should hopefully shine when they’re lit up and put under my aluminum tree.

Working from Home

I work from home.  I’m never quite sure how to describe what I do.  When I meet people I often get asked what I do.  When I tell them I make art they then ask what I do for a living. The assumption is that those who make art make a living by other means.  This isn’t always true, but I’ve never met a 25 year old that was self-supportive selling art.  So, like anyone else my age, I’ve worked hard to secure a job that makes ends meet and doesn’t drive me insane.

I started an Ebay business about the time I graduated college.  I’ve always had a series of small business ventures. Since I was 16 I’ve bounced between selling paintings online, doing custom sewing and selling vintage.  I’ve only had one conventional job, waiting tables, and I hated it.  A lot of my friends wait tables, enjoy it and are quite good at it.  There were aspects about it that I liked, but my introversion eventually got the best of me.

I love what I do now because it provides flexibility. If I want to make more money, I can, because I set my own hours.  I can also save up a bit and close shop for a week or two if I want to go somewhere.  There’s also a lot to be said for having no commute and being able to work in your pajamas while drinking beer and listening to loud old punk albums all day (not that I frequently do this, but the option is always there).  Like any other job, it can eventually lead to lots of drudgery, email answering and screen staring though.  Spending most days at home can also be draining, which is why I’ve taken up running as I search for hobbies that don’t take place in my house.

I work for about 5 hours a day, most of which is spent photographing, organizing and listing things.  On the weekends I haunt yard sales and estate auctions.  I mostly sell costume jewelry and nick nacks but I’ll buy just about anything I can turn a profit on.  There’s something about an old country estate auction, early on a cold morning, elbowing your way through a crowd of coverall clad country dwellers to yell out a bid that satisfies the primitive urge to hunt.  I’ve bought and sold broken clocks, prosthetic arms, antiquated electronics, absolutely hideous clothing and ceramic figurines that look like something conjured from a nightmare. Every day it’s something different.

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I’m thinking about doing a series on tips for starting an online business.  If this sounds like something you’d like to see on my blog, leave me a comment with some topic suggestions and I’ll try to address them when I start writing.

Capsule Wardrobe

A few weeks ago I decided to finally take on the mother of all first world problems: I have so many clothes, but nothing to wear.  I know I’m not alone in this.  According to an article on Huffington Post, the average woman owns around $500 worth of clothing that’s never been worn.  Many people, seduced by the thrill of acquiring, find out just how easy it is to end up with a closet full of things that are rarely if ever worn.  A lot of people, seeking to get more out of fewer things are downsizing and cutting their wardrobe to only best pieces, that can be easily matched.  I ran across an article about Project 333 and began contemplating a capsule wardrobe.  The idea behind the project is to limit your wardrobe to 33 items that are worn over the course of 3 months and then donated or put away, making room for another series of 33 items to be worn in the next 3 months.  Thirty three sounds like a reasonable number to limit your wardrobe to, until you start taking inventory and realizing just how many T-shirts, undershirts and dresses you actually own.  Luckily, the plan is flexible as it only has to benefit you.  I decided not to include underwear, tights, socks, undershirts, coats or work-out clothes in my count.  Still, my total came to 105 when all was counted.  This initial count was 105, even after cutting my wardrobe by half over the summer.

Benefits of owning less clothing:

  • I can invest in few but better pieces
  • I have incentive to make more clothes for myself, knowing they’ll actually get worn
  • I have more room in my closet
  • I now have a surplus of clothes hangers
  • I no longer have to stuff drawers full of clean laundry only to find the drawers won’t close when full
  • I don’t have to worry about what to wear in the mornings
  • I do laundry more frequently and should never again need try and fit 2 or 3 loads on my clothesline
  • I’ll spend less money on clothing
  • Next time I have to pack for a long trip, I won’t have trouble deciding what to bring

I ended up making it down to 40 items by donating almost everything that didn’t fit in my new capsule wardrobe.   I put a box of about 10 things I couldn’t part with under the bed for now.  In the last two weeks I’ve had a great time getting up and not having to even think about what to wear. Even before downsizing my wardrobe was all the same monochromatic grey, more grey, heather grey and black (with occasional breaks of yellow).  After getting rid of a lot of my clothes, I haven’t missed a single thing.  I never needed 4 black dresses in similar cuts, when one would suffice.  I never needed 20 pairs of shoes when I wear the same boots every day.  Now I plan to make more clothes for myself that are better quality and more versatile.

My New Wardrobe:

  • 15 shirts
  • 8 dresses
  • 6 skirts
  • 3 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 7 sweaters and sweatshirts

My Plans for Downsizing

When I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own, it took a day’s worth of back-and-forth, bringing boxes over in the back of a pickup truck.  The house I rented is only 600 sq ft but with only a bedroom’s worth of stuff in it, it seemed so empty.  Of course I set out to collect all the furniture and household items I needed to fill it.  After two years of stalking estate auctions and yard sales, I’ve managed to fill it up pretty well. I have just as much furniture as I need, and more nick-knacks than I can honestly justify.  The basement of my house, which I use as a print studio, doubles as storage for my online businesses.  The wall not pictured has floor to ceiling shelving that holds all of my Ebay inventory.  Still, it ends up acting as overflow for all the things I don’t want in my house and haven’t quite managed to part with.  When I was looking through old photos the other day and found one of my basement when I first moved in, I realized just how much I need to get rid of.

For the last few months I’ve been trying to downsize.  The more Jason and I talk about the possibility of moving into a tiny house, the more I realize I have a lot of work to do to get ready for that.  I already live in a small house, but have still managed to fill it with things I don’t need.  So over the course of the next few months, I’ve set out a plan to curb the crap problem.  I’ll be posting updates as I get farther on this list.  A few of these goals I’ve already passed, and have crossed out.  Still, I”m offering up this list to any of you that are also trying to downsize, or just declutter.  Please share some of your own personal decluttering goals to add to the list.

  • Limit wardrobe to only what would actually be worn in 2 weeks time, and a few pairs of comfortable shoes
  • Get rid of the whole shelf of coffee cups
  • Donate enough books that my whole library fits in one (organized) bookshelf
  • Toss the 5 or so broken turntables and instead buy one small nice one that works
  • Stop storing boxes of things in the bedroom when running out of space elsewhere
  • Get rid of the random pallets, kayak, buckets etc. that have to be stored in the almost non-existent yard
  • Limit dishes to a 4 of each piece (no more having 15 glasses, 20 coffee cups, 10 plates etc.)
  • Get rid of the nick-nacks there’s no room for
  • Do something with the things that are still stored at my parents’ house
  • Find a home for the several broken computers I could never part with

If you too are looking to downsize, here are some places that could use your junk:

  • Goodwill – Goodwill is a large non-profit network that operates thrift stores across the US.  I’ve always loved shopping there and feel good about donating because I believe in the work they do.  My local Goodwill has a drive-up donation door, and no matter how much crap I bring them I’m always met by someone friendly who thanks me while carrying my donations off to new uses.  Much of what they don’t sell is shipped overseas in bulk or recycled
  • Local charity shops – A great way to get rid of things and help the community at the same time.
  • Local food pantry – If you’re cleaning out your pantry and have things that are still good but you know you’ll never eat, you can feel good about donating them.
  • Recycling center – You really don’t need to throw away a lot of things you might be tempted to.  Our recycling center takes electronics, cassette tapes, books, fabric scraps, broken window glass and so many other things you might want to get rid of but don’t want to send to the landfill.
  • Your curb or alley– This might not be the best idea if you have neighbors who care, but thankfully I don’t.  This has proven to be the easiest way to get rid of things for me.  Plus I like to pretend that the people who drive by and pick up my worn out chair, lamp, table etc. are going to enjoy them as much as some of the curb-side treasures I’ve found over the years.  I try to limit my curb-side donating to only things that I know neighbors might find useful.  Things that are broken, damaged or dirty, I make sure to recycle instead.
  • Freecycle – A great alternative to putting things on the curb.  If you want something gone, you can offer it up for free here.

Reading List

World’s End by T.C. Boyle

Ever so often I come across a book that’s big enough and good enough that I never seem to finish it.  I carried this book around for the better part of a month and was sad when I finally finished it.  I picked it up at a yard sale because the back cover told of a protagonist haunted by ghosts of family members and forebearers.  As someone obsessed with genealogy, I’ve often felt the same way pouring through old records and stories looking for parallels between my life and those of my ancestors.  The book centers around a troubled man named Walter, fresh out of college in 1960’s New York state.  The book tells two narratives that slowly come together, and finally merge at the end of the world, in Barrow Alaska.  Walter finds himself haunted by waking visions of ancestors that appear around a life-altering accident.  He sets off in search of answers but meets every roadblock imaginable.  The search for answers reveals links to many of the novel’s characters whose families populated the region for centuries.  He seems constantly stuck between forces, those of his free-wheeling radical friends and his stuffy suit-and-tie job, between his life that’s on hold and the visions from the past he can’t seem to shake.   Parallel to the story of Walter is the story of his ancestors, who once lived in the same place as him, when New York was still a Dutch settlement.  Their troubled lives, plagued by strange happenings and betrayals give insight into the lives of their descendants, far into the future. Watching the dueling narratives finally come together was thrilling.  The book is wonderfully well written, well paced and completely worth the month’s worth of reading it took to finish it.

The Art of Non-Conformity – Set Your Own Rules – Live the Life You Want and Change the World by Chris Guillebeua

I was drawn to this book mostly because of the title. but felt an immediate spark upon realizing the author had some of the same values and experiences as I do.  He writes about quitting the “traditional” workforce at 20 and seeking self employment, valuing entrepreneurship over monotony and busy work.  He questions the established paths towards education (high school, college and graduate school) and sets forth a focused and economical plan for self-education.  Honestly the chapter “Graduate School vs. The Blogosphere” is one the things that finally encouraged me to start this blog.  The book focuses on the importance on building a life that is worthwhile and focused on work that is fulfilling and leaves a legacy.  It challenges the reader to fight authority, question convention, travel as a means to grow and make the world a better place.

The Big Tiny – A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams

To anyone who reads about tiny houses regularly, Dee Williams is a name that comes up often as an influence or source of inspiration.  I ordered this book a few weeks ago while busy thinking about tiny houses.  I was hoping it would provide some insight.  I was surprised by just how easily I related to the author and her experiences falling in love with the tiny house community.  The book follows her battle with an unforeseen illness, search for “Tiny House Man” (spoiler, it’s Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed fame), tiny house build and adjustment to a pared down life.  She writes often of the simple joys she found in the tiny life and the process leading up to it, such as quality time with friends, meeting neighbors and appreciating and feeling connected to the changing seasons.  In the book Dee approaches the tiny house idea with enthusiasm but a normal sense of trepidation, only to find many unexpected benefits of a simpler and happier life.  For anyone considering downsizing or seeking happiness through simplicity, this book would be a good read.